The Life and Death of Kurdish Leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou
A thorough work of contemporary history and a distillation of the complex web of the Iranian Kurdish political world, this biography of Kurdish leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou depicts the character and passionate action of one of the twentieth century’s most exceptional and democratic leaders of a national movement.
Carol Prunhuber, who knew Ghassemlou from the early 1980s, shows us the many facets of a humanist leader of magnitude and worldwide scope. From revolution that toppled the Shah to the dark and treacherous alleys of the Cold War, Dreaming Kurdistan revives the Kurdish leader’s fated path to assassination in Vienna. We know how, why, and who murdered Ghassemlou—and we stand witness to Austria’s raison d’état, the business interests that put a lid on the investigation, and the response of silent indifference from the international community.
Professor of economics in Prague, bon vivant in Paris, clandestine freedom fighter in the Kurdish mountains, stalked by the Shah’s secret police, Ghassemlou is ultimately assassinated by the hit men of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. Prunhuber takes us, through a murky world of equivocal liaisons, complicities, treachery, and undisguised threats, from Tehran to Vienna.
While the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to perturb and defy the West, Dreaming Kurdistan is essential for an understanding of Iran and the Kurds’ longing for freedom and democracy.
1. Kurdistan at War
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KURDISTAN AT WAR
The resistance against the Islamic Republic begins with cutting your beard.
—Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou
In Iranian Kurdistan, thousands had died during the last months of 1979.1 The war had thrown the entire country into mourning. Yet the Iranian military forces continued their offensive. For most of the next decade, the struggle of the Kurds would unfold within the larger scenario of the Iran-Iraq war. Ghassemlou and his men left Mahabad and headed toward the refuge of the mountains. The PDKI began its long march.
By 1981, its leaders were settling into what came to be known as “the Valley of the Democrats,” Dôli Demokrât, in the hinterlands of the Iran-Iraq border, along the banks of a small, nameless river encircled by snow-capped peaks. The PDKI was soon joined by other opposition groups who also set up their headquarters in the hidden valley.2
“At the beginning, at the daftar [the PDKI general headquarters],” one witness remembered, “we had nothing to eat, nothing to live on. It was a bad situation. But the people slowly adapted and came to help the party to continue the struggle. They gave whatever they had. The party was the people and the people were the party; their sons and daughters were part of the party.”3
In March 1980, Hélène Krulich arrived at the daftar near Mahabad, in Gök Tapa;...
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